WASHINGTON – Thwarted over and over by a unified Democrat Party loathe to see Obamacare fixed joined by a handful of members of the GOP, President Donald Trump Thursday used his pen and his executive power to at least partially fulfill a key campaign promise.
Senators repeatedly have failed to repeal Obamacare, or adopt a number of plans to fix it, in recent months. So the president dismantled part of his predecessor’s signature healthcare legislation – the Affordable Care Act— with the “power of the pen,” to provide “millions of Americans with Obamacare relief.”
The president’s plan will let small businesses and individuals band together, creating so-called “health care associations,” and purchase insurance across state lines, which he explained will increase competition to bring down costs and make it easier for people to buy cheaper, bare-bones health insurance.
“We aim to allow more small businesses to form associations to buy affordable and more competitive health insurance. This will open up additional options for more [employers] to buy health care plans their workers want,” Trump explained in a White House event marking the action.
“This will create tremendous competition – the competition will be staggering.”
“Insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up,” he continued. “And you will be, hopefully, negotiating, negotiating, negotiating. And you’ll get such low prices for such great care. It could have been done a long time ago and should have been done a long time ago.”
Democrats have transformed the American health care system into a “nightmare,” Trump explained.
“Seven years ago, congressional Democrats broke the American health care system by forcing the Obamacare nightmare onto the American people,” he said. “It’s been a nightmare – you look at what’s happening to the premiums and the increases – 100 percent, 120 percent, one case –Alaska—over 200 percent.”
The Democrats have been unanimous, first in adopting Obamacare and since Trump was elected, in opposing any changes.
Joining them have been three GOP lawmakers, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine.
“Now every congressional Democrat has blocked the effort to save Americans from Obamacare, along with a very small, frankly handful of Republicans –three – and we’re going to take care of that also,” he said.
The executive order, Trump explained, directs the Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services Departments to reinterpret alternative offerings, with the aim of expanding coverage options for consumers.
While the Obama administration limited the length of short-term insurance policies to three months, the Trump administration reportedly intends to extend the length of those policies by restoring insurers’ capacity to sell short-term policies that allow up to a year of coverage.
“The Department of Health and Human Services, the Treasury and the Department of Labor will take action to increase competition, increase choice and increase access to lower priced, high quality health care options. And they will have so many option,” the president said. “This will cost the United States government virtually nothing and people will have great, great health care, and when I say people I mean by the millions and millions.”
Trump acknowledged that given what happened with the debate on health care reform since he’s been in office, fully repealing Obamacare will consist of a long fight.
But that needs to be the long-range goal, policy experts contend.
Robert Graboyes, a senior research fellow and health care scholar at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, explained insurance companies already market in multiple locations by getting licensed in different states, as the Blue Cross companies do.
“It’s unlikely to have really any significant impact … It’s certainly not something that’s going to be a tremendous cost saver to do so,” he claimed.
Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, contends the president’s executive action does not begin to adequately overhaul Obamacare, “but it is incremental progress,” he said. “Competition is always a good thing. Sometimes competition has a major impact on pricing. Sometimes it has a minor impact on pricing. But it always has a positive impact for consumers.”